Billy Joel Announces ‘Once-A-Month’ Residency At Madison Square Garden
Is there a musician that’s more of a New Yorker than Billy Joel? Is there a musician that captures the essence and spirit of The Big Apple better than William Martin Joel?
Sure a lot of artists are associated with the “City That Never Sleeps”—Paul Simon, Jay-Z, and anyone who has hit it big on Broadway—but few are as synonymous with NYC as “The Piano Man.”
I don’t live in Metropolis, but Joel, especially during his heyday, looks like the quintessential New Yorker. You can see him on the steps of a walk-up singing doo-wop. You can see him with a baseball cap rooting for the Yankees. You can see him at Cooney Island enjoying a hot dog and scooping out the babes. If you were making a movie, and you needed an actor to play a New Yorker, central casting would send you Billy Joel.
His association with The Empire City continues in 2014. Just announced, the legendary singer-songwriter will perform at Madison Square Garden once a month until demand wanes. As things stand now, Billy Joel tickets will be collected in New York for the first half of next year.
His first scheduled concert is Monday, Jan. 27. A week later he returns to Madison Square Garden for his February show. In March, Joel takes to the Garden stage on Friday the 21st. His April show is set to go down Friday the 18th.
Joel’s New York residency is prepared to continue on Friday, May 9. That date may sound familiar to hardcore Joel fans as it’s his birthday. In 2014, Joel will turn 65. His June concert is plotted for the 21st. That’s a Saturday.
I’d bet good money that his single-venue tour lasts through the year. I guarantee that more than one visitor will change their travel plans to coincide with Billy Joel’s monthly Madison Square Garden gig.
“New York State of Mind”
The most famous song about The Melting Pot is the "Theme from New York, New York." It was composed by Fred Ebb and John Kander and first performed by the great Liza Minnelli. The tune was popularized by Frank Sinatra. Joel’s “New York State of Mind” may not be on the same level as that aforementioned show tune but it’s getting close.
Joel sang “New York State of Mind” at both “The Concert for New York City” in 2001 and the “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief.” The song was composed shortly after Joel moved back to New York. The idea came to him as he was literally “takin' a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.”
Interestingly enough, "Theme from New York, New York" was released more than a year after “New York State of Mind.” It’s the fourth song from Joel’s 1976 album, Turnstiles.
“Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”
Also included on Turnstiles is a similarly underrated classic, “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” While “New York State of Mind” celebrates the city, “Miami 2017” laments its demise. Joel wrote the defiant and passionate song while living in Los Angeles and during a time when New York City was at its nadir. This was Joel’s way of supporting his fellow New Yorkers.
The “science fiction song” (Joel’s words) weaves a tale of New York succumbing to the apocalypse. After playing the song at “The Concert for New York City,” Joel proclaimed: “I never thought it would really happen. But unlike the end of that song, we ain't going anywhere!" Everyone roared.
“The Downeaster Alexa”
“The Downeaster Alexa” isn’t about New York City proper. Instead, it tells the plight of Long Island fishermen (among others) who were finding it difficult to make a living. Think of it as “Allentown” for the sea. Incidentally, “Allentown” (from the album The Nylon Curtain ) was originally titled “Levittown.” Levitttown is a community within Hempstead, a town situated in Nassau Country on Long Island.
"Big Man on Mulberry Street"
In my opinion, "Big Man on Mulberry Street" is the high point of Joel’s rather bland 1986 album, The Bridge. Mulberry is an actual street in Lower Manhattan. The jazz-influenced song, which scored a dance number on the television show Moonlighting, also mentions the streets Houston, Canal, Hester, and Grand.
New York In Other Joel Songs
Joel consistently references New York—the city, its people, its lifestyle, and its landmarks—in his songs. “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” chides a trend of some New Yorkers to work long hours just so they can trade in a “Chevy for a Cadillacacacacacacacac.” “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” regales listeners about a prototypical New York couple (Brenda and Eddie). And “Big Shot,” found on the album 52nd Street (once the place to go in New York City to hear jazz), mentions Park Avenue and “Elaine’s,” a trendy NYC restaurant that closed its doors in 2011.
Billy Joel was born in the Bronx but grew up in Hicksville (about 45 minutes East of Manhattan). In the mid- to late- 1960s, he played in several bands in and around The City. These groups attracted fans to their shows but they couldn’t sell any records. Joel released his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, in 1971. Cold Spring Harbor is a hamlet found north of Hicksville.
In 1972, Joel moved to Los Angeles to avoid a bad recording contact and to energize his career. Well, you can take the kid out of New York but you can’t take the New Yorker out of the kid. Minus the song “Piano Man,” Joel found little success in La La Land. He moved back to New York City in 1976. The first album he made after returning was Turnstiles—his last non-classical album not to have peaked inside the top ten.
Just because you’re from New York, and you sing about the city, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the town’s favorite son. But Joel’s performance record definitely indicates he’s the apple of the Big Apple’s eye. It also proves that he’s more than deserving of being synonymous with The Five Boroughs. Joel is the only musician to have performed at Madison Square Garden, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Giants Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Shea Stadium. By the way, Joel played the last concerts at Shea Stadium in 2008.
Joel loves MSG and has called it the “center of the universe.” In 2006, his 12-night run at the Garden set a record for the Most Consecutive Nights Ever Sold Out at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
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